Flash Fiction: The Museum Job

Another new and interesting assignment this week in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge! The usual 1,000 words, any genre, utilizing somewhere any five words from a list of ten random words! The words I got were “whalebone,” “orphan,” “casket,” “acid,” and “topaz.” Piece of cake, especially after I decided to let my protagonist get her snark on. I even made it well under the word count, only 847. But they’re 847 really good words.

As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.

THE MUSEUM JOB

“When you said you needed help getting some whalebone, I figured you were making a corset,” I said, glancing around for cameras or security guards.

“Shut up and hand that vial of acid to me,” Crawford said, “and be ready to back around the corner quickly.”

“How about I back off now, all the way around the corner to home, where I’m far less likely to end up getting shot or arrested?”

“Maria, you’ve always blathered on and on and on about how your life is so dull and boring. Here’s a chance to do something new and exciting, but all you’ve done is bitch about it!”

“Multiple felonies weren’t what I had in mind!”

“Just be ready to move when I tell you to. When this relay melts through we’ll have thirty seconds to get through the door and down the hallway beyond the view of the security cameras inside above the door.”

Thirty-three seconds later I was panting a lung inside out and sweating bullets, back pressed against some sort of casket or sarcophagus. The museum was only dimly lit at this hour so I couldn’t tell if I was desecrating a display about ancient Egypt or the history of funerals in northern Minnesota.

Crawford had passed me and gone into the Hall of Gems across the hall. I could just make out his zebra camouflage overalls lurking behind a “Topaz Through Time” exhibit. He was gesturing at me with a complex series of hand signals I no doubt would have understood if I had been an Army Ranger or had memorized every scene in every “Rambo” movie.

Instead, it was all gibberish to me. For all I knew, he was telling me to take two balls and lay down the bunt. I responded with the one hand signal I knew he would recognize.

He eventually dumbed down the hand signal demonstration enough so I could figure out that he wanted me to join him, slithering across the polished marble floor on my belly. When he counted down from five, I got on the floor, flipped onto my back, and pushed across the floor like we did when we were in kindergarten. No way I was going to go face first.

“Smart ass,” was all he said when I got to him.

“Bite me,” was my snappy response. I was starting to feel that the lines of communication were becoming strained in our relationship.

“The direct route is through here,” he said, jerking a thumb toward the other fancy gem cases, “but it’s all heavily alarmed, so we’re going to go around the long way.” He pulled out his phone and pulled up a map of the museum’s current exhibits. “Down the hall to ‘Crazy About Calliopes’, across to the right into ‘Lost Children of World War II’, and back through ‘Crater Lake Critters’. Got it?”

“Sure, organs, orphans, and Oregon. How hard can this be if you figured it out?”

“Just stick with me and don’t do anything stupid.”

“Do you mean ‘stupid’ as in breaking into the Natural History Museum, or ‘stupid’ as in not knowing the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’?”

He ignored me. “If we get separated, just do your best to avoid cameras, guards, and alarms. I’ll meet you at the door to the marine mammals wing. On three — one…”

I flopped back down on my back and started scooting down the hall again without waiting to see if he would make it past two. In twenty feet my thighs were killing me, so I got up and duck-walked sorta bent over-ish.

I was past caring if I got caught. I could just plead insanity and point to all the time I had spent with Crawford as the cause.

Crawford was behind me, hissing and being stealthy in a very noisy way. I ignored him. About the time I thought he was going to resort to bird whistles and monkey howls to get my attention, the guards appeared.

Once we were in handcuffs we made much better time, even if our destination had changed. Who knew they had a holding cell in the museum basement? Couldn’t they have just made us part of the Torquemada display?

Crawford finally ended his sullen silence as we were marched down the subterranean hallway toward a door marked “Security.”

“I hope you get what you deserve when we get there,” he muttered. His guard swatted the back of his head to shut him up.

“Hit him again,” I said, ducking forward as my guard tried the same on me.

As the guards opened the office door, I was blinded and startled by the bright light and wall of noise that erupted from within.

“SURPRISE!” all of my friends shouted, surrounding a flaming birthday cake that would have given the fire marshal a coronary.

“I told you being a patron of the museum would come in handy some day,” Crawford smirked.

“Hit him again, really hard, right between the eyes,” I begged the “guards.”

Another perfectly good birthday wish ignored by the gods.

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